To start off with, we mourn the passing of a great college basketball coach in the University of Memphis Tigers ex- head basketball Coach Dana Kirk on February 15, 2010.
Dana Kirk, who led the Tigers to the Final Four in 1985 but was fired unceremoniously the following year amid NCAA legal troubles as well as IRS white-collar criminal problems, was seen as a favorite-son from mostly everyone in the City of Memphis.
Wayne Yates Replacement
Coach Kirk was a West Virginia native who arrived in the town of Memphis in the fall of 1979 to replace one of the worse Tiger coaches in the history of the storied basketball program in Wayne Yates. Coach Kirk started on the building process straight-away and by his third year had the Tigers in the Big Dance and the NCAA tournament.
He compiled a 158-58 record over seven straight seasons, highlighted by the 31-4 campaign in 1985 that ended with a loss in the NCAA semifinals to eventual champion Villanova Wildcats.
Although Coach Dana Kirk did a spectacular job in rebuilding not only a damaged Memphis State basketball program he also upped the reputation of the city as a Mecca for college basketball talent that to this day is recruited heavily by power houses such as Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville and a host of other NCAA basketball Division I schools.
No one will argue the success that Coach Kirk had with the Memphis State Tigers but one can also argue the point that it was Dana Kirk single-handedly who spelt the demise of one of the greatest basketball seasons of the Memphis State Tigers, in 1985.
That was the year that a Memphis State team with talent as deep as a starting five and bench could go with All-American center Keith Lee and All American power-forward Baskerville Holmes and their star-shooting guard Andre Turner were brought together to bring home a championship to the City of Memphis.
Magical Time throughout the City
That 1985 season for the Memphis State Tigers was a magical time throughout the entire City of Memphis and especially on the Memphis State campus. The atmosphere was one of festive reality with the Tigers being heralded as the new Elvis Presley’s of the city that Elvis Presley helped create.
Yes the Tigers were that big in the City of Memphis. Coach Dan Kirk prompted an investigation from both the IRS and the NCAA two seasons after a very good showing at the 1985 NCAA Final Four in Charlotte, North Carolina and it could not have came at a worse time for both the City of Memphis and the fans of Memphis State basketball.
If you were to look for the University of Memphis or even Memphis State University in 1985 in the NCAA Tournament you will see nothing, not even an asterisk. The records have been wiped-clean as if these tigers from Memphis did not cruise through the NCAA Regionals all the way to the storied Final Four.
There is no mention in the official NCAA record books or even a mention of the team’s rise from Metro Conference mediocrity and the usual and customary brides maid but never the bride posts to the Louisville Cardinals all the way to challenging the Villanova Wildcats in the last three minutes of the game with a tied score of 59 and Ed Pickney exhausted and in foul trouble.
How does this guy know all about the Final Four of the Memphis State Tigers in 1985? I was one of the stricken from the record books players that played in 1985 for the Tigers.